7 iconic biopics to stream on Showmax

By Stephen Aspeling7 June 2023

7 iconic biopics to stream on Showmax

There’s something in us that makes it important to celebrate achievements and exalt winning personalities onto the world stage when they do something extraordinary. While you may be the best pickleball player in your neighbourhood, you’ve typically got to be one of the best pickleball players in the world for Hollywood to sit up and take notice. It also helps if you’re a household name and worth millions. 

This selection of icons from across the ages earned their based-on-a-true-story biopics whether by sheer talent, pure ingenuity or unlimited creativity. Watching these inspirational and rousing true stories gives us ordinary folks a chance to believe, reach for our dreams, take a leap of faith and realise how much discipline, talent, timing and luck factors into doing the seemingly impossible. 

King Richard (Richard Williams) 

Will Smith as Richard Williams in King Richard on Showmax

Richard Williams received global recognition when the coach and father’s long-running influence on his daughter’s runaway tennis careers was publicly acknowledged across the globe. Having devised an 85-page plan for their world domination and started training from the age of four, Williams took Venus and Serena to the pinnacle of sporting achievement thanks to his tireless determination, discipline and inspirational philosophy. 

Plucky and funny biographical sports drama King Richard honours the father’s commitment and contribution in a heartfelt chronicle of the years leading up to a life-changing tennis match with world number-one Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Taking on the title role, Will Smith immerses himself in a spirited Oscar-winning turn. The Hollywood heavyweight shows his versatility as an actor, having played sports icons Muhammad Ali and now Richard Williams. 

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Louis Wain) 

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is on Showmax

The name Louis Wain may not ring a bell but the artist’s legacy has had a lasting and profound influence on the magical world of cats. Ancient Egypt have a claim, but it wasn’t until Wain’s anthropomorphic cat-themed art blew up that it became perfectly normal to have a furry, clawed and mini sabre-toothed beast calling the shots in your living space.  

Delightfully nutty and heart-warmingly tender, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain journeys with the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed artist as an upstairs-downstairs romance plays out in an age of new possibilities. Ironically, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch who brings Wain’s “electrical” life to screen after playing Thomas Edison in The Current War. Set in 1881, this quirky, imaginative and charming biographical romance drama has a touche of Peter Pan, Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson.  

Elvis (Elvis Presley) 

Elvis is on Showmax

You could say Elvis Presley wrote the master class on how to make it big before the advent of the internet. This music drama biopic from Baz Luhrmann is a vivid throwback to the king of rock ‘n roll’s rise to fame from the grit of the backwoods to the flash of the Las Vegas strip, the making of a superstar turned myth. Centred on his uneasy relationship with an unscrupulous leech of a manager, tensions escalate as Elvis becomes the biggest-selling solo artist of all time.  

Taking a page from Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann injects ceaseless cool energy and pizzazz into this exhilarating spectacular. Starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, this decadent trip down memory lane plays as if adapted from a graphic novel, stirring up excitement on the back of a star-making performance from Butler. Grounded by the socio-political fervour of the time, this moody and provocative stick-it-to-the-man tale is pure stardust. 

Judy (Judy Garland) 

Judy is on Showmax

An actor, dancer and singer, Judy Garland spent almost 50 years in the limelight, a child star who catapulted to fame with an unforgettable performance in The Wizard of Oz. The bittersweet biographical character portrait, Judy, focusses on her residency at a London theatre, using flashbacks to explore the cult icon’s earlier career striving to get ahead in image-obsessed Hollywood. 

It’s Renée Zellweger’s immersive and transformative Oscar-winning performance that sets this prestige biopic apart. Unrecognisable, she’s able to slip into Garland’s world with relative ease thanks to brilliant make-up, styling and wardrobe, adopting the late star’s mannerisms, intonation and vocal performance. Set at Talk of the Town, this authentic, manicured and lived world redoubles Zellweger’s efforts and breathes life into this vivid award-winning production. 

Spencer (Diana Frances Spencer) 

Spencer is on Showmax

Princess Diana is best remembered for her activism and glamour, and her legacy and popularity continue to be a fascination, recently stoked by the coronation of King Charles III. Mother to William and Harry, her royal duties and responsibilities become the focus of the elegant, moody and unconventional historical character portrait, Spencer. The semi-biographical drama centres on Diana’s frame of mind over the course of a Christmas holiday with the royal family at their Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. 

Pablo Larraín unveiled the equally unsettling psychological drama Jackie, and serves up a companion piece with this lavish slice-of-life and snapshot. Instead of Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, it’s Kristen Stewart who heralds this artful window with a contemplative, gracious and immersive take on Princess Diana. A feast for the eyes, Spencer harnesses an alienating atmosphere and haunting mood, as this ornate drama adopts psychological thriller elements.   

Green Book (Don Shirley) 

Green Book on Showmax

Green Book is based on the true story of odd couple Don Shirley and Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, an African-American classical pianist and a working class Italian-American bouncer. The semi-biographical coming-of-age drama zooms into a tumultuous 1962 tour of the Deep South when an unemployed Vallelonga agreed to serve as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard. 

Green Book co-stars Mahershala Ali and an unrecognisable Viggo Mortensen, whose transformative performance makes him more like Chris Farley than Aragorn. Making a day/night shift from his role in Captain Fantastic, Mortensen is effortless as a polar opposite to the composed, dignified and graceful Ali. Moving from funny to touching, the two enjoy sparkling chemistry in this inspirational, refreshing yet understated bromance road trip. From clever insights and incisive reflections of 1960s America to feel-good fun, this heartfelt and finely crafted drama is an entertainment all-rounder. 

Moneyball (Billy Beane) 

Moneyball is on Showmax

Billy Beane’s name may not rank with the likes of Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, but this unsung hero deserves to be heralded as one of the biggest influences on the modern game of baseball, traditionally based on player reputation and speculation. The general manager of Oakland Athletics essentially changed the business of baseball when he used key stats to draft a team of underdogs after their team was gutted ahead of the 2002 season.  

Based on the book, Moneyball is a captivating, smart and character-driven sports version of The Social Network, starring a hardy Brad Pitt and humorous Jonah Hill. The spirited and unconventional biographical drama finds Pitt playing a stubborn and brooding Billy Beane, whose struggling team is on the comeback trail with Hill as Peter Brand, his trusty sidekick.  

Bullet Train stars Brad Pitt as one of a carload of assassins 

Stream the HBO documentary Adrienne about a screen icon 

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